Tag Archives: Sales

Has Foursquare Become a Micro Managing Tool for Employers

By: Travis E. Blythe

As long as I have been in sales, one thing has been pretty consistent.  That is the utilization of sales reports for a sales team.  Although companies have different methods of tracking how their sales teams report on sales efforts, the most common way is to have the sales person submit a sales call sheet at the beginning of the week, followed by a subsequent report outlining the success or status of the meetings.  I have also been involved where that method is implemented along with a CRM program.  Most of us know the reason for so much reporting is for accountability.

Accountability, is the single most important part of the sales program.  The need to make sure our sales team is out performing and actually calling on customers or clients is what drives sales managers batty.  If you have ever worked for what we call a “micro manager” then you know exactly what kind of constant communication is needed to prove you are working.  Many micro managers have the need to know where you are every instant of the day for their own piece of mind.  The above outlined system is what I was a part of years ago.  Taking time to match all three reports and make sure the person went where they said they were and not actually goofing off or laying by the pool or on a beach somewhere.  We actually went as far as to follow-up with some of the clients, ask them about the sales person and how everything was going.  We even tried out GPS systems to carry in the car and have a printout at the end of the day where they went.  I know that seems a little radical, but the owner of that particular company felt that if he was working hard to make the company successful, then his employees had to be working just as hard.

Now that location-based apps are becoming more and more popular, how long will it be until employers start utilizing programs like foursquare to keep track of employees?  Making mandatory checks all day long to prove you were where you say you are.  It would be quite hard to falsify that report, unless you have someone checking in for you all day.  I probably just gave programmers everywhere a great new app to develop for sales forces everywhere.  It makes sense, if you are supposed to be somewhere, or you tell your boss you are going to be somewhere, then you actually have to go.  Now that an app like foursquare has the ability to work with numerous phones, the “I don’t have an iPhone” excuse won’t work to well.

Will this be the death of Location based apps or will this make them more popular than ever in the business world?  Stay tuned in and we will see.

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Trade Show Marketing 1.1

By: Travis E. Blythe

In an earlier post, I outlined what I thought were the three main steps or stages involved in a trade show conference.  In this section, I am going to talk about the first step.  This is normally called the “Planning Stage”, and hopefully you don’t wait until the last-minute to schedule your conference or trade show.  With that being said, the planning stage is one of the most important stages.  It is here, you create the awareness of your company being in attendance and where people can find you at the conference.

Okay, you signed up to be an exhibitor at the best trade show of the year.  You sold the powers that be, this conference is the “be all to end all” conferences your company needs to be at and needs to have an exhibitor/booth space.  Everyone is usually skeptical (I mean the CEO/President/Owners) because they think they are throwing money away and no one really works a booth or they can’t measure the ROI.  Well, you haven’t met me or my tactics for trade show marketing yet and I can usually always bring home some business.  One of the first items of business is to make sure you post on your website exactly what conferences you plan on attending for the year.  This is important, especially if you have a strong client interaction with your website, some clients may see you going to a particular event they didn’t know about and will thank you.  The second step is to get the attendee list once you pay your money for the exhibit space.

Now that you have the attendee list, item number one is to send out the “Email Blast” to all the attendee’s telling them exactly where they can find you and what prizes you have to offer to get them to stop by.  Make sure you entice with a big-ticket item (something they think they can win) and an awesome give away item (like a cool, hip t-shirt).  Just don’t SPAM the email though, address them individually and don’t let them know you mass emailed it.  There are several programs out there that do this. If not, then send them all separately if you have the resources.  With today’s Social Media taking off the way that it is, you should try to look up all the people you want to target, or all the attendee’s you want business from on Linkedin and Twitter.  Send them invites to connect or follow them.  I would also include in the email ways they can find your company on social media. Engage them to connect with you.

When you have the proper time to plan for the conference, study the schedule and whether you will have time to entertain clients.  Find out what current clients or potential clients are going and set up dinners.  There is nothing worse than to arrive to a conference and have nothing lined up or trying to do it the same day.  Most everyone will have plans and you will end up waiting for everyone to return before you can engage and entertain them.

The next part of the planning stage, which is important is packing up all the materials you will need to be successful.  The number one item is obviously the business card.  Make sure you have all of your company’s literature, a nice 1-page graphic of the prize you are giving away, a bowl for business cards, business card holders, pens, and what I like to call the contact sheet (for those who forget or run out of business cards).  Because I never trusted the other sales reps who attended the trade shows with me to be as responsible as I am, I usually brought all the stuff with me even though some of it is packed inside the booth already.  Somehow the trade show booth fiery always lost or broke something.  Also, don’t forget to have all the “swag” shipped to your conference so you actually have stuff to give away.

One last food for thought is to make sure you have booked your travel.  Scout ahead of time to see if you need transportation from the airport (if flying) or if there is a shuttle to conference site. Show the boss you saved money by booking 2-3 weeks out. Same for the hotels, most conferences offer a conference rate to stay at the hotel where the conference is located or one relatively close.  I understand there maybe cheaper places to stay just down the road, but remember you have to be traveling back and forth sometimes and it can be a pain if you are 5 miles away.  Especially when you are lugging around supplies, laptops or want to change your clothes when the exhibit hall closes for the day.

If you follow these steps, you should be very prepared for your conference or trade show and ready to conquer!

Enjoy your conference and safe travels!

Next up Trade Show Marketing 1.2 – The Show

Things I Think – Thursday 3/18/2010 – SXSW Edition

Nothing says good times like a road trip!  Since Austin, Texas is a mere three-hour and some change drive, the plan was simple, road trip to South by Southwest (SXSW). I have looked forward to this for months, I was not even sure I was going to get to go, then in the 11th hour I got the nod. Since everyone in the industry kept saying how fantastic this event is, my mouth was watering for the experience of SXSW.  It was like nothing else, geeks, techies, directors, actors and musicians all descending on little ‘ole Austin, Texas for nearly two-weeks of good times.  Since I was a SXSW virgin, I was hoping the event would take it easy on me.

So we loaded up the Broscalade pointed the GPS south and mozied on down highway looking for adventure.  Why is it that the first leg of the road trip is always the best? Jamming out to some great tunes and having great conversations, versus just loud music and 20 min naps on the way back.  So we jammed to Rob Base-It Takes Two which was our mantra for the trip (did I just date myself?), drank some coffee and energy drinks all the way down, and arrived ready to rock.

So here is what I think about SXSW. As a whole it is a great concept, there were a bunch of people and cool things happening.  But, I think most of the class sessions were over rated.  It seemed more to me like social media for dummies than anything else.  Although I left some very dumb classes (Zombies, Vampires, & Monsters: Fostering Loyal Genre Communities), I did manage to learn a ton from some of the good ones. One of the more interesting sessions was about Citizen Journalism. I thought a Jerry Springer episode was going on or we were being punked, because the arguments which ensued were comical to say the least.  Are journalist really worried about a blogger like me or citizen journalist taking their job away? I guess so, they were pretty heated, I was waiting for the chair to get busted on someone’s head.  Good Times!

I have a few favorite quotes from the long weekend so I thought I would post them.

  • Hey man you dropped your shank
  • You can never have too much flatware when out in Austin
  • What is it Amateur night? (friends dragging limp body of a friend)
  • It’s kind of like a dating website without the dating
  • I wasn’t that drunk was I? No, except for the part when you fell down
  • We are kind of like Entourage, no I am not Turtle! (and the Not-It’s begin for the “Turtle” designation)
  • Yeah, Brogan didn’t make the list of celebrities to earn the “Name Dropper” badge – Foursquare Dennis Crowley

I got really excited when I saw through my twitter stream the “The Oatmeal” was in town.  I hit him up a couple times and told him I wanted to meet him.  No I am not a crazy stalker guy, I just thought his stuff is really funny and since he is from Seattle, it would be cool to meet him.  Yeah, about that…he dissed me.  Didn’t even get an acknowledgment. Oh well, one day he will be asking to meet me because I am that cool (yeah right), in the meantime, still check out his website The Oatmeal.

Foursquare came/saw/kicked apps! Yes the Foursquare group lead my their Fearless leader and Co-Founder Dennis Crowley brought their own ball, invaded Austin and took on the local favorite Gowalla.  I am sorry Gowalla, but you were TKO’d again this year.  Everywhere you went you heard people checking into this class, creating the line to get into a class or event or how to get this badge and that badge. I ended up with 8 out of 16, may I suggest Mr. Crowley you add a “See the Bats” badge for next year, I couldn’t convince anyone to check them out.  Did I mention that I ran into Mr. Crowley while in line waiting for…ahhh just in line and he is actually a cool guy.  I was asking the secrets of obtaining an elusive badge and he actually told me. I then proceeded to tell him my thoughts on how to make Foursquare better…

I also was able to meet Mr. Mashable himself Pete Cashmore, I even had a cool picture to prove it.  Unfortunately the SXSW Camera monster ate it and I am afraid it will be lost forever.  He actually asked my thoughts on social media and we were conversing until these two chicas (not even very hot) so rudely interrupted for their picture. Can you believe the nerve of them? I mean really, I was talking out of my ass to MASHABLE!!

So, all in all I thought this conference was just…okay, maybe 3 out of 5 beakers.  I think they had too many classes going on at the same time and none of them were ever repeated. So,you basically had to choose and if you picked wrong, then you had to haul ass across the convention center, cross the street to the Hilton, up the escalators 2 floors and get to another session.  At least it felt that way to me.  I never walked so much in my life, me feet still hurt! I think the SXSW producers purposely held the nightly events across town from each other to keep the rickshaw bicycle guys employed. But I am cheap so I walked everywhere.  I met some great people and future leaders of our country (yes I have faith in all of you!) as well as learning about what is to come for 2010…Location, Location, Location.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers.

Trade-Show Marketing 1.0

I recently attended a trade show event and afterwords I had to laugh at the wasted opportunities I felt were left behind.  I was actually getting mad at these vendors at the lack of initiative. I put my card in the bowl of opportunity and was shocked at the lack of follow-up. This prompted me to give my opinion or advice, depending on how you take it.  It seemed to me at least, as I was walking around this particular trade show, the purpose the vendors was to promote the product or service and attract new clients and customers.  What kind of ROI can you expect if you don’t follow-up?  I am no stranger to the trade-show or conference events as I was once labeled the road warrior of conferences.  I have a system in which I feel, if you follow these simple instructions, you will be successful.

This is more than likely going to be a several part series as I don’t want to bore you to death in one long post on what you need to do to develop and nurture your business. So I am going to break them down in to sections and speak about each one. For me when I attend a conference there are several stages which make it successful:

  1. Pre-Conference planning
  2. The Show
  3. The follow up

So you decided to attend a conference or trade-show as a vendor.  What I mean by the term vendor, is that you paid to have a vendor space or booth space.  So you ponied up the money (hopefully you got the early registration in order to save the company a few bucks) and you are ready to pack up the booth or table top display and head out.

As I outlined there are three major steps in planning for your trade show.  The first step can either be one of the most important or least important.  It will depend on who your target audience is.  The show itself is where all the magic happens and where you can be a “sales superstar” and brand yourself and your company.  The final step, I call the follow up is where you make your money.  I will break down all three steps on an individual basis, so stay tuned on how you can become the “Conference Superstar.”

Trade Show Marketing 1.0

I recently attended a trade show event and afterwords I had to laugh at the wasted opportunities I felt were left behind.  I was actually getting mad at these vendors at the lack of initiative. I put my card in the bowl of opportunity and was shocked at the lack of follow-up. This prompted me to give my opinion or advice, depending on how you take it.  It seemed to me at least, as I was walking around this particular trade show, the purpose the vendors was to promote the product or service and attract new clients and customers.  What kind of ROI can you expect if you don’t follow-up?  I am no stranger to the trade-show or conference events as I was once labeled the road warrior of conferences.  I have a system in which I feel, if you follow these simple instructions, you will be successful.

This is more than likely going to be a several part series as I don’t want to bore you to death in one long post on what you need to do to develop and nurture your business. So I am going to break them down in to sections and speak about each one. For me when I attend a conference there are several stages which make it successful:

  1. Pre-Conference planning
  2. The Show
  3. The follow up

So you decided to attend a conference or trade-show as a vendor.  What I mean by the term vendor, is that you paid to have a vendor space or booth space.  So you ponied up the money (hopefully you got the early registration in order to save the company a few bucks) and you are ready to pack up the booth or table top display and head out.

As I outlined there are three major steps in planning for your trade show.  The first step can either be one of the most important or least important.  It will depend on who your target audience is.  The show itself is where all the magic happens and where you can be a “sales superstar” and brand yourself and your company.  The final step, I call the follow up is where you make your money.  I will break down all three steps on an individual basis, so stay tuned on how you can become the “Conference Superstar.”

Is Your On-Line or Social Media Marketing Like a Texas Snowfall?

By: Travis E. Blythe

If you live in Dallas or the DFW Metroplex, you can pretty much count on having snow fall at least once a year. In most areas of the country, this is not a bad thing and usually it is not anything to worry about.  However, if you live in Dallas you are very familiar with the nightmare which encompasses our yearly snowfall. Most of us weigh the options of whether or not to travel and venture out into the city.  People who are used to snow and wintry conditions usually fail to understand is that we don’t have salt trucks, we don’t have snow plows, what we do have are a few trucks that are able to dump sand and dirt over the top of the snow and ice that accumulates. We all know that is really not a solution for the problem, but rather a temporary fix to get through the problem.
 
Has your online marketing turned into a nightmare? With all of the buzz surrounding social media and how to effectively utilize it within your business model, are you reluctant to travel out into it?  Are you worried that you do not have the tools to properly engage your clients and potential new customers?  Are you putting a little “dirt” on the problem hoping for a quick fix to get you by?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it is time to invest either your time or your finances to learn how to effectively approach your social media or online marketing efforts. Normally when you head out into the cold, snow and ice, you make sure you are prepared.  You check your tires, make sure you have plenty of gas, you dress properly and then hope for the best. Your marketing strategies should also have plenty of preparation.  You need to make sure that you are ready to launch the campaign in order to make it successful, you have the time to invest, and you utilize all the tools available to you.
 
It is pretty comical how the “local residents” in Dallas-Ft. Worth tend to drive when we get our annual snowfall or “wintry mix”, as they call it. Since this happens once a year for a maximum of two days, no one has any experience in driving in snow, ice, and slush.  This makes it even more hazardous to the rest of us that do know how. I am always amazed at how I see people get stuck for driving too slow, or they can’t go up a hill because they are driving to slow. I thought it was common sense to utilize traction when driving on ice, but here in Texas apparently it is not.  When you approach how you want to market yourself, you should also be experienced in what you are doing and know what you want to accomplish. We all have several “pains” from the previous marketing experience or the latest efforts.  Don’t get caught going too slow when it comes to your social media and online marketing. You need to make sure you are 100% invested in seeing it through otherwise it will be a waste of time and money.  The last thing you want to happen is to start your social media campaign and stall half way through because you didn’t have the tools to execute or you “ran out of gas” along the way.  Make sure you have the traction you need to gain the optimum results you are looking for.
 
I could go on and on about the six ways for this, the six things for that, what to do to get started and how to go about your marketing efforts in order to be successful.  However, the plain truth is, you should consult someone who is experienced in this field. You could spend all day shoveling snow out of your driveway, or you could use a snow-blower and have it done within the hour.  After all, you are a business owner and the proverbial phrase “time is money” definitely applies here and your main goal is to find creative ways to increase revenue and build your business.
 
With a new year looming around the corner, are you prepared to get back out on the roads? Are you ready and prepared for a successful marketing plan? Don’t just sit at home and wait for the weather to clear.  I guarantee your competitors are not waiting.

Is Your On-Line or Social Media Marketing like a Texas Snowfall?

If you live in Dallas or the DFW Metroplex, you can pretty much count on having snow fall at least once a year. In most areas of the country, this is not a bad thing and usually it is not anything to worry about. However, if you live in Dallas you are very familiar with the nightmare which encompasses our yearly snowfall. Most of us weigh the options of whether or not to travel and venture out into the city. People who are used to snow and wintry conditions usually fail to understand is that we don’t have salt trucks, we don’t have snow plows, what we do have are a few trucks that are able to dump sand and dirt over the top of the snow and ice that accumulates. We all know that is really not a solution for the problem, but rather a temporary fix to get through the problem.

Has your online marketing turned into a nightmare? With all of the buzz surrounding social media and how to effectively utilize it within your business model, are you reluctant to travel out into it? Are you worried that you do not have the tools to properly engage your clients and potential new customers? Are you putting a little “dirt” on the problem hoping for a quick fix to get you by?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it is time to invest either your time or your finances to learn how to effectively approach your social media or online marketing efforts. Normally when you head out into the cold, snow and ice, you make sure you are prepared. You check your tires, make sure you have plenty of gas, you dress properly and then hope for the best. Your marketing strategies should also have plenty of preparation. You need to make sure that you are ready to launch the campaign in order to make it successful, you have the time to invest, and you utilize all the tools available to you.

It is pretty comical how the “local residents” in Dallas-Ft. Worth tend to drive when we get our annual snowfall or “wintry mix”, as they call it. Since this happens once a year for a maximum of two days, no one has any experience in driving in snow, ice, and slush. This makes it even more hazardous to the rest of us that do know how. I am always amazed at how I see people get stuck for driving too slow, or they can’t go up a hill because they are driving to slow. I thought it was common sense to utilize traction when driving on ice, but here in Texas apparently it is not. When you approach how you want to market yourself, you should also be experienced in what you are doing and know what you want to accomplish. We all have several “pains” from the previous marketing experience or the latest efforts. Don’t get caught going too slow when it comes to your social media and online marketing. You need to make sure you are 100% invested in seeing it through otherwise it will be a waste of time and money. The last thing you want to happen is to start your social media campaign and stall half way through because you didn’t have the tools to execute or you “ran out of gas” along the way. Make sure you have the traction you need to gain the optimum results you are looking for.

I could go on and on about the six ways for this, the six things for that, what to do to get started and how to go about your marketing efforts in order to be successful. However, the plain truth is, you should consult someone who is experienced in this field. You could spend all day shoveling snow out of your driveway, or you could use a snow-blower and have it done within the hour. After all, you are a business owner and the proverbial phrase “time is money” definitely applies here and your main goal is to find creative ways to increase revenue and build your business.

With a new year looming around the corner, are you prepared to get back out on the roads? Are you ready and prepared for a successful marketing plan? Don’t just sit at home and wait for the weather to clear. I guarantee your competitors are not waiting.

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www.youtube.com/corner6labs

www.linkedin.com/in/traviseblythe

New Market 101 – Part One

New Market Sales 101 – Part One, starting the wrong way

By: Travis E. Blythe

Recently I undertook a huge task of trying to establish a new market. Unfortunately the results were less then satisfying, and the whole project was pulled only after 4 months of my time. I know that most people are thinking the same thing that I am, “it doesn’t seem like they gave it much of a chance.” I would concur with that statement, but in their eyes, my four months plus the person before me’s four months equaled 8 months. Which is a shame because the company did have potential, but like any new market, you have to expect a build up time of at least 1-yr, especially if there is not any existing business to start with.

So here I am ready to undertake a huge project of injecting a new company into a market where they have never really been before (it was determined that the previous person never left the house and didn’t do anything for four months). So project number one was brand building. I am fortunate enough to have been in this industry for over 10 years, so the contacts I have, I knew would come in handy. My first target was to associate the new company with me, with my previous track record and reputation, I knew that I could bring business in with my name alone. I was able to successfully bring in more business in my first two-weeks then the previous person did in 4-months. Good for me, so I thought.

The DFW metroplex is a huge area and there are over 80 accounts alone to get business from. After my first month I was feeling pretty confident about being successful with this service I was providing. unfortunately, this is where things started to go downhill. I know how to successfully market a territory from scratch, I know what it takes and how to get your brand out there in front of people to establish yourself in a market where there are minimum of 10 competitors who do the same exact service calling on the same exact people. So lesson number one was “Never undertake a task without asking more questions”. I was under the impression that since this was a “National” provider, they actually had a market share. Come to find out, they actually were not on any approved vendor lists for the major accounts in the industry. Why was this important? Well, for starters, if you eliminate the top 10 companies to get business from, it really leaves a bunch of small accounts who do not have the case load to provide a steady stream of business. Which in turn means that you have to rely on sporadic business.

So then I approached this problem from a different angle. I researched which companies in other markets were giving us business. My thinking was that if XYZ was giving us business in Florida and Georgia, I was sure that my counterparts would be able to get me a POC for the same companies here. Unfortunately that was another mistake on my part. I am used to a team mentality when it comes to a sales force. I successfully ran a sales team across the country and implemented this philosophy so that we could “help each other out”. I quickly learned that we did not have a sales team but more of a bunch of account “manager” who “Farmed” accounts and were too scared to ever speak to a manager or higher for fear of jeopardizing the account. So basically I had no help and I was told not to contact the other accounts in other markets.

So I don’t have any existing book of business, no past business to follow up on(I had to put out fires on the previous business brought in by the previous rep, so no repeat business here), or accounts in other markets where we do get business to help me get in the door. My next difficult task was to correct all of the problems we had with not knowing the Texas laws. So my first set of business I brought in was a disaster because we pretty much screwed the pooch on all of the files, because nobody knew what they were doing at home office. So this equaled no repeat business, even though all of this business was from dear friends in the industry helping me get started. I tried to overcome this by taking control of my cases myself and getting rid of the “help”. Which did end up helping on the new business I was still getting, but not any of my old business.

So here is a thought, if no one is familiar with your products or services, and you have never been in a market before, wouldn’t it make sense to maybe attend a trade show? Maybe exhibit at a couple of industry conferences to help build brand awareness? I thought so, but the powers that be decided that it would be a waste of money and I should try to “sneak in” and guerrilla market on my own. Unfortunately my reputation is valuable to me and I do not “sneak in” especially when I used to be the one scheduling conferences and trade shows with my last company and most of them know me. I would be later told they had “sticker shock” because it cost so much in this market. Well, welcome to a Major Market! Unlike a smaller market like Colorado or Las Vegas, where everything is dirt cheap, DFW is a major hub for this industry. More people, more clients, more vendors, more money to be made, so a wee bit higher of cost associated with it. It is tough when all of your major competitors are at a booth handing out marketing materials and gaining good quality leads on decision makers and POC, and you are on the sideline watching. So I guess the old philosophy “spend money to make money” was true. It is kind of funny that if you are considering someone’s base salary sinking money into a market, then you never should have started in the first place.

My last great hope was that the company would at least take my advise and get certified with the state to be able to teach Continuing Education Classes. Here is Texas, many of the clients here utilize them from vendors because they are free and it gives them an opportunity to have the employees get hours in order to maintain their licenses. The process takes at the most 2-weeks to complete. After 4 1/2 months and countless times of asking, it was never done to my knowledge. From my point of view, this would have opened doors that were shut due to not being on a vendor panel. It would get your name out there and possibly speed up the process of the panel selection or addition. Furthermore it gets you in front of offices that have a “no vendor” policy which prohibits you from just wandering around and speaking with people. You not only have people in a room for an hour, you get to give them your information and get them hours and above all, market!!

So what did I learn from this experience? Above all, I learned  I really should have done more due diligence on the company. I needed to understand more about the wall I was up against from the beginning. I needed to know that there would be no training, no help from team members and above all that the window of opportunity would only be 4-months. Live and learn and know how to grow from your experiences!

In part two of this article, I will talk about how to effectively market a new territory and the steps you really need to take in order to be successful.

New Market Sales 101 – Part One

New Market Sales 101 – Part One, starting the wrong way

Recently I undertook a huge task of trying to establish a new market. Unfortunately the results were less then satisfying, and the whole project was pulled only after 4 months of my time. I know that most people are thinking the same thing that I am, “it doesn’t seem like they gave it much of a chance.” I would concur with that statement, but in their eyes, my four months plus the person before me’s four months equaled 8 months. Which is a shame because the company did have potential, but like any new market, you have to expect a build up time of at least 1-yr, especially if there is not any existing business to start with.

So here I am ready to undertake a huge project of injecting a new company into a market where they have never really been before (it was determined that the previous person never left the house and didn’t do anything for four months). So project number one was brand building. I am fortunate enough to have been in this industry for over 10 years, so the contacts I have, I knew would come in handy. My first target was to associate the new company with me, with my previous track record and reputation, I knew that I could bring business in with my name alone. I was able to successfully bring in more business in my first two-weeks then the previous person did in 4-months. Good for me, so I thought.

The DFW metroplex is a huge area and there are over 80 accounts alone to get business from. After my first month I was feeling pretty confident about being successful with this service I was providing. unfortunately, this is where things started to go downhill. I know how to successfully market a territory from scratch, I know what it takes and how to get your brand out there in front of people to establish yourself in a market where there are minimum of 10 competitors who do the same exact service calling on the same exact people. So lesson number one was “Never undertake a task without asking more questions”. I was under the impression that since this was a “National” provider, they actually had a market share. Come to find out, they actually were not on any approved vendor lists for the major accounts in the industry. Why was this important? Well, for starters, if you eliminate the top 10 companies to get business from, it really leaves a bunch of small accounts who do not have the case load to provide a steady stream of business. Which in turn means that you have to rely on sporadic business.

So then I approached this problem from a different angle. I researched which companies in other markets were giving us business. My thinking was that if XYZ was giving us business in Florida and Georgia, I was sure that my counterparts would be able to get me a POC for the same companies here. Unfortunately that was another mistake on my part. I am used to a team mentality when it comes to a sales force. I successfully ran a sales team across the country and implemented this philosophy so that we could “help each other out”. I quickly learned that we did not have a sales team but more of a bunch of account “manager” who “Farmed” accounts and were too scared to ever speak to a manager or higher for fear of jeopardizing the account. So basically I had no help and I was told not to contact the other accounts in other markets.

So I don’t have any existing book of business, no past business to follow up on(I had to put out fires on the previous business brought in by the previous rep, so no repeat business here), or accounts in other markets where we do get business to help me get in the door. My next difficult task was to correct all of the problems we had with not knowing the Texas laws. So my first set of business I brought in was a disaster because we pretty much screwed the pooch on all of the files, because nobody knew what they were doing at home office. So this equaled no repeat business, even though all of this business was from dear friends in the industry helping me get started. I tried to overcome this by taking control of my cases myself and getting rid of the “help”. Which did end up helping on the new business I was still getting, but not any of my old business.

So here is a thought, if no one is familiar with your products or services, and you have never been in a market before, wouldn’t it make sense to maybe attend a trade show? Maybe exhibit at a couple of industry conferences to help build brand awareness? I thought so, but the powers that be decided that it would be a waste of money and I should try to “sneak in” and guerrilla market on my own. Unfortunately my reputation is valuable to me and I do not “sneak in” especially when I used to be the one scheduling conferences and trade shows with my last company and most of them know me. I would be later told they had “sticker shock” because it cost so much in this market. Well, welcome to a Major Market! Unlike a smaller market like Colorado or Las Vegas, where everything is dirt cheap, DFW is a major hub for this industry. More people, more clients, more vendors, more money to be made, so a wee bit higher of cost associated with it. It is tough when all of your major competitors are at a booth handing out marketing materials and gaining good quality leads on decision makers and POC, and you are on the sideline watching. So I guess the old philosophy “spend money to make money” was true. It is kind of funny that if you are considering someone’s base salary sinking money into a market, then you never should have started in the first place.

My last great hope was that the company would at least take my advise and get certified with the state to be able to teach Continuing Education Classes. Here is Texas, many of the clients here utilize them from vendors because they are free and it gives them an opportunity to have the employees get hours in order to maintain their licenses. The process takes at the most 2-weeks to complete. After 4 1/2 months and countless times of asking, it was never done to my knowledge. From my point of view, this would have opened doors that were shut due to not being on a vendor panel. It would get your name out there and possibly speed up the process of the panel selection or addition. Furthermore it gets you in front of offices that have a “no vendor” policy which prohibits you from just wandering around and speaking with people. You not only have people in a room for an hour, you get to give them your information and get them hours and above all, market!!

So what did I learn from this experience? Above all, I learned  I really should have done more due diligence on the company. I needed to understand more about the wall I was up against from the beginning. I needed to know that there would be no training, no help from team members and above all that the window of opportunity would only be 4-months. Live and learn and know how to grow from your experiences!

In part two of this article, I will talk about how to effectively market a new territory and the steps you really need to take in order to be successful.

Stop Light Sales – Part 2

Green Light Sales – Part 2

 

By: Travis E. Blythe

 

Ok, so now you have worked your magic and spoke the silvery tongue language and calmed down your client or at least opened up the gates where they are at being cordial to you.  What do you do now?  Go into your full blown sales pitch?  Do you risk going backwards in the light progression by selling too soon? Or were you so put off by your client that you bailed?

 

A common mistake by sales professionals is they leave too early and miss the opportunity.  Especially when you have just encountered someone in a red light frame of mind, the human response to confrontation is flight. Make sure you are teaching your sales team to not run away so quickly.  Uncover the problem and then determine the best course of action.

 

Ok, so you determined what your clients trigger point was and you were able to keep a steady flow of conversation and now you have them in the “Yellow Light” zone.  This is the neutral stage, where the buyer is reserving his or her judgment but is willing to listen.  Has usually not made a decision but is interested enough to listen.  NEVER begin a presentation until your customer is in the yellow-neutral-zone.  How do you know?  Just ask permission, “I have some ideas for how we can…”, “If you have a second, I’d like to show you…”  Those are just a few ways to ask permission.

 

This is in a way kind of like fishing; you want to throw enough out there to set the hook.  Yellow light presentations should be short and quick, like a teaser of information that will leave them wanting more.  Once they ask for more, give it to them.  Now depending on how yellow they are, should be how full blown your presentation should go.  I would not be getting out the projector and laptop, but I would utilize my brochures and literature you may have.  I would highly suggest a follow up meeting and set it while you are talking to them, this allows you to be able to come in the next time with guns blazing and you will be there to knock their socks off.